Classical engraving appreciation thread

Just wanted to share a beautiful example of classical engraving. Notice the characteristic 20th c., modernist time signatures, which sometimes space the numbers apart, allowing slurs to flow through. The horizontal and vertical spacing is impeccable. The image is very low res, but it doesn’t look like a plate. I wonder if B&H used Leland Smith’s Score or something else.


Yes, it definitely looks like SCORE to me, especially the clefs.

P.S. Most of us saw this page when you posted it yesterday. Try not to double-post.

Not wild about the title font. It doesn’t sit well in the space (possibly because it’s split onto two decks).
If you’re going ‘the full Modernist’, then keeping Times for the Tempo becomes almost incongruous.

Given that this is presented in a completely new context (as a starting offering for an appreciation thread), I do not see any problem here. In fact, I am not even sure this qualifies as an actual double-post.


Here is the original Universal (reprinted by B&H 1939) miniscore for comparison. I think the fonts work better together. The whole score is available at Béla Bartók - Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, Sz. 106 - YouTube and also IMSLP.

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The barlines in the B&H one are too regular – you might think several of the systems were actually all one system!

The more ‘irregular’ fall of the barlines in the original gives a much clearer division.


I totally agree, Ben. At least at first glance from a distance, it would indeed be easy to presume that the first version was an orchestral piece that took up the whole page, rather than a series of distinct systems.

Great point. Arnold Arnstein had a rule that one sees in well-engraved music: the bar lines should always be staggered from system to system in both the parts and the score, never aligned to the extent seen in the later B&S version, because lining up makes it too easy for a player or conductor to skip a line. Lining up was considered a beginners mistake and something Arnstein corrected when a new composer or copyist first showed him their work.

A lot has been lost over the years since the start of computer engraving and not just at B&H. Henle and other publishers suffer from a lack of a knowledge of good engraving practice. It is a pity that those who knew how to engrave music, the plate engravers, didn’t pass their knowledge on completely, or it has been ignored.

In any case, since a computer program would be even more prone to aligning, it is something that should be taken account of by the program. And the slight changes seen in the OP are not sufficient to counter the downward pull of the bar lines on the eyes.


Elaine Gould mentions it on p. 489:

“Barlines on adjacent systems should not align. If barlines do coincide, systems containing alike material will look too similar and the eye is liable to skip a system; in a score, adjacent systems will look as if they are part of the same system. Barlines that do not coincide clarify the system breaks.”

B&H: Breitkopf & Härtel; Boosey & Hawkes; Benson & Hedges…


For those who are not aware, this has been a feature of Lilypond, possibly since its beginning.

On the other hand, the Universal engraving above fits only 3 bars per system, with a sequence of four meters, so there is no danger of the barlines coinciding.

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I was appalled when I received my copy of the Barenreiter edition of Handel’s organ works a year ago. I was so irked by some of the mistakes I shelved the edition and haven’t played from it since. Voices drop in and out of measures (without appropriate rests to account for them) that it’s difficult and disorienting to read. (I’m not necessarily meaning to imply that every voice has to be accounted for throughout the entire work when silent, but it should be at least accounted for completely within a bar…)

Then there are just the flat out errors. Again… critical edition by barenreiter that wasn’t cheap:

Then there’s this gem that randomly changes rastral sizes half way through:

And more collisions….
AND look at the rest situation! It’s nuts. Try sight reading that!

I’ll stop now. You get my point, but buyer beware.

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Here’s 40 minutes’ worth of note input, to see how Dorico handles things without any effort:

I can’t find a way to get more than one time signature in the same bracketed group. And I think I’ve uncovered a bug in the Print Preview.


The example in my other post was a different edition, with the time signature numbers not spreading for the slurs. I agree about the font and the bar lines being too regular though.

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Oh! Sorry to complain, then.

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Thanks for doing this @benwiggy. It’s a great example of the difference between Dorico’s default settings and a traditional published edition. Default settings by definition will have to be full of compromises, but there could definitely be improvements to space efficiency of drawing slurs. Comparing the three examples, the printed editions are much tighter in vertical spacing. The slurs in Dorico are just too detached from notes.

In fairness, some of that may be my defaults, rather than factory ones; and this isn’t my usual kind of thing.

I dare say spending a bit of time with it, selecting more appropriate Engraving Options, would yield a better result.

… and I’ll wager it took more than 40 mins to do either of the other two!


I don’t think this is a problem with your particular settings. Take a look a the slurs in b.5-7 in my original example. You can’t make this kind of curvature in modern notation software. You would need to have independent control of the beginning, continuation and the ending section of a slur.

For those who are interested, several months ago one of the Breitkopf editors placed a “help wanted - engravers” notice on the Music Engraving Tips Facebook page. The requirement was that any samples be submitted in Sibelius format. The attached sample pages may still be available if you are a member of ME Tips.

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It’s a pity I don’t use Sibelius anymore, otherwise I’d be genuinely interested.

A couple of years ago Baerenreiter produced an new edition of Bach’s unaccompanied violin sonatas arranged for keyboard that was filled with this kind of bad engraving. They seem to have lost their touch.

However, to give them the benefit of the doubt in this case, it appears that they are trying to duplicate the original manuscripts and/or first editions, since those composers did not use our present system of stem direction and rests in polyphonic music. In my opinion retaining the most important elements of the older notation is laudable, but never at the expense of legibility. A good compromise is usually possible that preserves what is valuable and discards what is not.
The reason for the change in staff size on that page might have to do with a page turn. But its hard to tell from the example. I place great importance on page turns, but never had to reduce the staff size to accomplish it.